WASHINGTON ? Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Oversight of Government Management Subcommittee Chairman George Voinovich (R-OH) today announced that the Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the Department of Energy's management of health and safety issues surrounding DOE's gaseous diffusion plants at Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Piketon, Ohio on Wednesday, March 22nd at 10:00 a.m. in Room 342 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
"This is an issue that has been of concern to me for some time," Chairman Thompson said. "If the federal government put workers in harm?s way without their knowledge, we need to know about it and we need to do what we can to make it right. The Department of Energy has acknowledged that problems exist at several of its sites, and has proposed legislation to compensate certain workers.
"The Committee wants to hear from the Department regarding what exactly they know about what happened in Oak Ridge and in Piketon, what new information they expect to have when their on-site investigations are complete, and their views on how we can most appropriately compensate for the mistakes that were made."
Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), who has pushed for an investigation into the situation at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant in Piketon, Ohio added, "The federal government owes both current and former workers the truth about what materials they were exposed to on the job. I expect the Department of Energy to take this responsibility seriously as they continue their investigation."
Chairman Thompson first became concerned about this issue in 1997, after reports surfaced describing a pattern of unexplained illnesses in and around the Oak Ridge community. At that time, Senator Thompson called on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta to come to Oak Ridge to try to determine whether a pattern of illnesses existed and, if so, what was causing them. When the CDC study proved inconclusive, Senator Thompson pressed the issue with Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, urging him to focus the attention of the Department on possible employment-related illnesses in Oak Ridge.
Late last year, the Department acknowledged that certain workers at DOE sites had been exposed to harmful materials and sent a compensation proposal to Congress. That proposal was introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman and Chairman Thompson and is currently pending before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The hearing will be broadcast live via the Internet